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Democratic Candidates Forum Sponsored by WIS-TV South Carolina, the Center for Community Change, and the Tom Joyner Morning Show

Location: Columbia, SC

January 30, 2004 Friday







MR. JOYNER: I'm Tom Joyner of the Tom Joyner Morning Show.

MR. STANTON: Presidential Candidates Forum, a Dialogue with America's Families. This forum is sponsored by WIS-TV, the Center for Community Change, and the Tom Joyner Morning Program. I'm David Stanton with WIS-TV.

MR. JOYNER: I'm Tom Joyner of the Tom Joyner Morning Show. What we have this morning are real families selected and these real families will ask questions of the candidates. The candidates will come out here one at a time, and these families will talk to these candidates one-on-one about the issues that affect them. This is not a debate, this is a dialogue with America's families.

Are we ready to get started?

MR. STANTON: Before we begin, we're going to review our format. Each candidate is going to be introduced and will have 45 seconds to respond to an opening statement responding to this question, would you set a goal of reducing poverty as president, and if so what would the goal be, and how would you achieve it?

MR. JOYNER: We have to do the legal disclaimer.

MR. STANTON: The families will ask the questions, the candidates will have a minute 30 to respond.

MR. JOYNER: I mean, the views, and how the lawyers always have you say, the views do not reflect the views of the radio station, the television station, and the Center for Community Change.

MR. STANTON: I think you just did. Thank you very much.

MR. JOYNER: Legal is in my ear.

MR. STANTON: Tom and I are going to also be asking questions, and the candidates will have a minute to respond to each of our questions. And we also ask the audience, if you would, please, keep your applause down until the end of our program so we'll have more time to hear from the candidates. Six of the seven candidates for president are here today. Senator Joseph Lieberman declined our invitation.



And now let's meet our next candidate, Senator John Kerry. Senator Kerry. (Applause.) Senator Kerry, you'll have 45 seconds for an opening statement on poverty in America.

SEN. KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody, I think. Let me just say that for 35 years, from the time I came back from Vietnam, having fought in a war that saw more African Americans and Latinos serving on the front lines and becoming the casualties, and suffering when they came back, I learned first-hand how tough it can be in America with respect to getting rights. And I have never seen the economy of our country as unfair as it is today in the United States. People are working harder, working longer -- 43 percent of the children -- 43 percent of the African American children in South Carolina are poor; 30 percent of all the children in South Carolina are poor. And I'm tired of this being a country where we're willing to spend --

MR. STANTON: Out of time.

SEN. KERRY: -- $50,000 a year to put people in jail for the rest of their life, rather than spend $10,000 a year on Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start, early childhood education. (Applause.)

MR. STANTON: Senator, Tom Joyner will introduce you to the families.

MR. JOYNER: Thank you. Meet Michell Hicks-I'm sorry, Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. (Applause. Cheers.)

SEN. KERRY: Glad to meet you.

MR. JOYNER: Native American communities face a lot of challenges n education and health care. Michell, tell us about some of the challenges that your people are facing.

Q First of all, senator, welcome to the Carolinas. I do represent the Eastern Band of Cherokee, and also North Carolina, our brother to South Carolina. I'm glad to be here to be with you folks.

I would like to say that the Eastern Band is the largest tribe east of the Mississippi, representing 13,000 folks. This year represents the 174th year since the U.S. Congress voted into law the Indian Removal Act signed by President Jackson. Of course this seems like a long time, but when you take a look at the oppression that not only our society, but other parts of our society as these folks share with me-you know, there's no time line for oppression.

The Cherokee Nation's agreement with the U.S. was nullified, and the Cherokee people were forcibly removed from their homes, farms and ranches and literally marched across the nation to the Western region. The Trail of Tears was an embarrassing moment for this nation and for our tribe.

But there's a long stream of those failed promises, which continue to this very day with legislation pending in Congress. The legacy of broken promises has translated into Native Americans among others living in some of the poorest countries in the states and in this nation. And for Native American populations to consistently rank near or at the bottom for poverty, housing, education and health. Sir, my question for you today: If the United States continues to fail to meet its promises to its first residents, and all other residents, and we are a federally recognized tribe, how can African Americans, Latinos, Asians, new immigrants, youth, seniors and those that are poverty stricken, bee asked to believe that this U.S. will live up to the promises it makes to them? (Applause.)

MR. JOYNER: And do you have a follow-up?

Q And, sir, hold up-let him answer that one, and then we'll get the follow-up later.

SEN. KERRY: It's an honest and it's a great question, and it remains the great scar in the United States of America, is what happens to Native Americans and what is now happening.

The fact is that we have had too many broken promises all across this country, but we've also made progress. And I believe personally that the greatest progress was made when we had Democratic presidents who opened the doors of opportunity-President Kennedy started that in the 1960s with the civil rights movement. Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act. And he knew it was going to cost us politically in the South, and it did. But guess what? The mayor of Atlanta started to build a stadium and said-started to build a stadium and said, We built it with land we didn't own, with money we didn't have, for a team we had yet to sign. And then came the Braves, then came the Falcons, then came the Dolphins, then came the Panthers.

I'm saying to you that we've learned how to play sports together. We've learned how to educate and go to school together. But we need now to learn how to live together in the United States of America. And we need leadership --

MR. STANTON: Please wrap up, senator.

SEN. KERRY: -- we need leadership that is prepared to honor the needs of all our communities in this country.

MR. STANTON: Out of time.

SEN. KERRY: It begins by standing up against powerful special interests, and not giving people who earn $200,000 a year another tax cut at the expense of health care, education, and the needs of the community.

MR. STANTON: And we have another question from our family for you, senator.

MR. JOYNER: Okay, meet Beatrice Ladiesma (ph) from Wichita, Kansas, and immigrant who is now a business owner. Beatrice?

Q Yes, my name is Beatrice Ladiesma (ph) and I came from Wichita, Kansas. My only story is my father he was working in this country-he came into the United States for the guest working program. And life -- (inaudible) -- use for that, his employer, but came back now to Mexico -- (inaudible) -- law. Growing up we almost never saw him. That's why it's very hard for me, to my brothers and my sisters, and especially for my mother -- (inaudible) -- Now I live in the United States with my children for 19 years. I have my own business, and I pay taxes too. And now I still have my dream becoming a United States citizen.

I never want anything like what happened to my father, what happened to me or anybody else-that's why we're here.

SEN. KERRY: I understand. I understand that. (Applause.) Nobody-that shouldn't happen, and I am in favor of a program that brings people out of the shadows and treats people decently. We need an earned legalization program so that people who have been here for a number of years, paid their taxes, have jobs, stayed out of trouble-many of whom have children who are American citizens, because they were born here and they deserve to be treated humanely and decently, and we're going to try to bring them out by having earned legalization. I think we need a guest-worker program, but not George Bush's program, which is one for exploitation of working people in America. (Applause.) And we have 37,000 legal immigrants who are serving in the United States armed forces, and I think any legal immigrant who is honorably discharged deserves expedited citizenship of the United States. (Applause.)

MR. STANTON: And, Senator Kerry, we have a follow-up question from our families. You'll have one minute.

MR. JOYNER: Meet Anton Gunn, the executive director of South Carolina Fair Share. Anton?

Q I'm blessed to be standing here beside a first American and a new American. And as an African American, or should I say black American? -- you know, we see the struggles of not accessing citizenship in America. You heard her story about her father and her. You know, what is your time table to guarantee access to citizenship and the right to the American dream for all immigrants in America?

SEN. KERRY: Well, when you say for all immigrants, if they are legal immigrants I think that it ought to be tried within a reasonable period of time-four or five years we ought to try reasonably to do it. I mean, there are several plans in Congress-five, six years. I think we can work through that and figure out what's a reasonable period of time.

What's important, however, is also to bring people out of the shadows so that we know who is in our country in terms of security, and also fairness. We have a lot of people who get herded into these large detention centers, separated from families-very cruel situations. I think we need to have immigrant reform that also has border reform, so that-and employer reform. We have people who are hiring people illegally, and they exploit them.

MR. STANTON: You need to wrap up.

SEN. KERRY: And it seems to me that we have to have a crackdown on that. And that's the way you wind up creating a system that's fair to everybody.

MR. STANTON: Out of time.

MR. JOYNER: Senator Kerry, the next question is about health care. Millions of Americans have no health care coverage. Others can barely afford their coverage. Do you have a plan to provide health care coverage for all Americans? And, as an addendum, would you favor legalizing the importation of drugs from Canada?

SEN. KERRY: Yes to the importation of drugs, I do. I also will allow states to be able to negotiate bulk purchases of drugs for Medicare so that we can lower the cost to seniors, and also lower the cost to all of you who wind up paying for it. But I do have a plan for health care coverage for all Americans. Number one, I am going to take over Medicaid children from the states, and we're going to cover all children in America automatically, immediately, day one, automatic enrollment -- (applause) -- children will be covered.

Number two, I am going to provide a 75 percent credit for people on the COBRA, so if you're unemployed you can still afford health insurance. I'm going to allow people 55 to 64 --

MR. STANTON: You need to wrap.

SEN. KERRY: To be able to buy into Medicare early. I'm going to allow every single person in America to buy into the same plan that senators and congressmen give themselves, because if it's good enough for us, it's good enough for everybody in the United States. (Applause.) That's what we'll do, and it will lower costs.

MR. STANTON: Senator, your next question comes from Tom Joyner.

MR. JOYNER: And this is an e-mail question off of Pamela Fox writes: I am very concerned about the exporting of jobs out of the United States. What are their plans to keep our jobs in the United States and help American companies and its workers?

SEN. KERRY: The first thing I'm going to do is crack down on any of these companies that take advantage of the tax code, like Tyco did, buying a $27,000 mailbox, and then they take $400 million off the tax rolls and stick you with the bill. We're going to shut down any incentive, any reward, or any kind of benefit for any Benedict Arnold company or CEO that takes American jobs overseas and stick the American people with the bill. That's number one.

Number two, we're going to have a fair trade agreement so that we put labor standards and environmental standards that begin to raise people up in other countries and not allow everybody simply to rush out to the lowest-sort of to the bottom, if you will, by going to other countries where they don't have any standards --

MR. STANTON: You need to wrap up.

SEN. KERRY: And, finally, we have to create jobs in the United States of America. We were doing that under Bill Clinton. We created 23 million new jobs.

MR. STANTON: Time's up.

SEN. KERRY: And if you liked the eight years of the economy under Bill Clinton, you're going to love the first four years under John Kerry, because we're going to repeat the same thing. (Applause.)

MR. STANTON: Senator Kerry, Senator Kerry, our next question is an e-mail question from a WIS-TV viewer. This is an e-mail question. You can see it there on the monitor, from Roberto Molineri (ph) from Columbia. He says: I am concerned with your stand on the Vietnam War and your organization, Vietnam Veterans Against the War. What can you comment on that stand, now?

SEN. KERRY: Well, I'm very proud of the fact that when I came back from Vietnam I had seen an extraordinary injustice over there, and I saw extraordinary injustice of the way the draft was applied. Most of the kids that I was with in Vietnam came out of the Southside of Chicago or South Central Los Angeles, or the barrios or elsewhere. They weren't the kids from the universities that I went to. And I believe that the draft was unfair. I think the war itself was unfair. (Applause.) And I'm proud that we stood up, and we not only stood up to Richard Nixon and camped on the mall and led thousands of veterans to Washington, but they tried to take us to the Supreme Court of the United States and kick us off. And we said to him, Mr. President, you sent us 8,000 miles away to fight, die and sleep in the jungles of Vietnam-we earned the right to sleep on the Mall and talk to our senators and our congressmen. (Applause.)

MR. STANTON: Out of time.

SEN. KERRY: And we stayed.

MR. STANTON: Out of time, Senator Kerry. Senator Kerry, thank you for taking time to be with us in our family forum today.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause. Cheers.)

Copyright 2004 Federal News Service, Inc.

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